By John Richardson
Bayer Material Science (BMS) has announced plans for a new polycarbonate ((PC) plant in Asia in another sign of confidence that the chemicals industry, despite major macro-economic threats, is continuing to benefit from the continent's soaring growth.
BMS will make a decision on whether to build a new polycarbonate plant either in Thailand or China by the end of this year, said the company's CEO, Patrick Thomas
Start-up would be in 2013-14 and the capacity would be 200-300,000 tonne/year, said Thomas, who was speaking at the official opening of the German major's functional films research centre in Singapore.
Source of picture: Bayer Material Science
"Our global PC capacity is now fully occupied. We have brought back on-stream 120,000 tonne/year of capacity which we idled 12 months ago during the economic crisis," he added.
"Asia dominates the market and accounts for around 65% of worldwide demand compared with 50% before the crisis."
He confessed that BMS had been surprised by the resilience of the optical data storage market for PC.
"We had expected a collapse, but what we have instead seen is strong growth in emerging markets such as Latin America, the Middle and India for back-catalogue films on CDs."
He added that PC demand was also benefiting from a boom in electronics, office equipment and flat-screened TV panels.
"In America, we have received a boost thanks to increased sales in office automation machine.
"Office machines, which combine functions such as photocopying, faxing and emailing into one unit, have replaced people since the economic crisis began.
"The casing for these units is made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)/PC composites.
"But replacing jobs with machines means that the unemployed will stay unemployed and, of course, that's a big problem for the US market."
Thomas said that despite Thailand's recent political problems, the country's sovereign risk was low.
He also believes that environmental problems that have halted investments at the country's Map Ta Phut petrochemicals complex will be resolved.